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Probability

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Overview

In this section we will cover:

Expressing probabilities

GMAT Probability Rule #1

GMAT Probability Rule #2

GMAT Probability Rule #3

GMAT Probability Rule #4

Probability

You may encounter questions on the GMAT that ask the probability of an event

occuring. For instance:

• Sara rolls two fair, six-sided dice. What is the probability she will roll two 6s?

• Roland flip two fair coins. What is the probability that neither of the coins will

land on tails?

• A bag contains six blue marbles and six red marbles. If Teresa randomly

chooses a marble from the bag, what is the probability that the marble is

blue?

All of these problems are probability problems. Probability is a measure of the

likelihood of an event occurring.

Expressing Probability

The probability of an event occurring is expressed as a number

between 0 and 1. A probability of 0 means the event can never

happen. A probability of 1 means the event is certain to happen.

decimal, or a fraction. For instance, the probability of a fair coin

landing on tails can be expressed as

Fraction 1/2

Decimal .5

Percent 50%

P(A) = 1/2

Probability Rules

There are four probability rules you need to memorize in order to master GMAT

probability questions:

result in A divided by the total number of possible outcomes.

2. The probability of an event occurring plus the probability of the event not

occurring equals 1.

event A times the probability of event B given that event A has already

occurred.

A occurring plus the probability of event B occurring minus the probability

of both events occurring.

The probability of an event A occurring is the number of outcomes that

result in A divided by the total number of possible outcomes.

Example: Raphael tosses a fair coin. What is the probability the coin will

come up heads?

Probability of heads = 1/2

Example: Tom rolls a fair die. What is the probability that the die will roll an

even number?

Probability of even number = 3/6

Probability of even number = ½

Rule #2

The probability of an event occurring plus the probability of the event not

occurring equals 1.

In other words, we can say with 100% certainty that an event will either occur or not

occur. For instance, the probability of a fair, six-sided die rolling a 4 is 1/6. The

probability of the die not landing on 4 is (1 - 1/6) or 5/6. 1/6 + 5/6 = 1.

This concept can be very helpful on the GMAT. Sometimes it is easier to determine

the probability of an event not occurring than determining the probability of an event

occurring. Once your know the probability of an event not occurring, you can

subtract the probability from 1 to find the probability of an event occurring.

Rule #3

The probability of event A AND event B occurring is the probability of event

A times the probability of event B given that event A has already occurred.

Example: Joseph rolls two fair, six-sided die. What is the probability that

both die will roll a 6?

Probability of 2nd die coming up 6: 1/6

Probability of both die coming up 6: (1/6) * (1/6)

Probability of both die coming up 6: 1/36

Example: A bag contains three blue marbles and three red marbles. If two

marbles are drawn randomly from the bag, what is the probability that they

are both blue?

events if the outcome of one event affects the outcome of the other event. The

probability of drawing the second marble depends on the outcome of the first

marble. If the first marble is red, there is no possibility of drawing two blue marbles.

Thus, the probability of drawing a second blue marble is calculated after the first blue

marble has been drawn.

If a blue is drawn on the first draw, there are three red marbles and two blue

marbles remaining in the bag.

Probability of drawing blue on second draw (given that first was blue): 2/5

Probability of drawing two blue: 6/30

Probability of drawing two blue: 1/5

Rule #4

The probability of event A OR event B occurring is the probability of event A

occurring plus the probability of event B occurring minus the probability of

both events occurring.

Example: Charles rolls a fair, six-sided die. What is the probability of Charles

rolling a 2 or a 4?

Probability of 2: 1/6

Probability of 4: 1/6

Probability of a 2 or 4: 1/6 + 1/6

Probability of a 2 or 4: 2/6

Probability of a 2 or 4: 1/3

In the previous problem, the events were mutually exclusive. Mutually exclusive

means that the events cannot occur together. There is no way to roll a 2 and a 4 at

the same time. The events in the following problem are NOT mutually exclusive.

Example: Of the 100 students at a certain school, 30 students are taking a

chemistry class, 40 students are taking a physics class, and 20 students are

taking both a physics and a chemistry class. If a student is chosen at

random from the school, what is the probability that he or she is taking a

physics or a chemistry class?

Probability of selecting a student taking a physics class: 40/100

Probability of selecting a student taking both classes: 20/100

Probability of a selecting a student taking chemistry OR a student taking physics:

30/100 + 40/100 - 20/100 = 50/100 or 1/2

blue, and 3 beads are black. If two beads are chosen at

random, what is the probability that they are both blue?

A. 1/81

B. 1/12

C. 2/9

D. 1/3

E. 1/4

What is the probability that the letter will be an s?

A. 1/11

B. 3/10

C. 4/11

D. 1/4

E. 1/3

2 yellow cards, and 2 green cards. If two cards are

randomly drawn from the deck, what is the probability that

they will both are not blue?

A. 15/28

B. 1/4

C. 9/16

D. 1/32

E. 1/16

is the probability that the coin come up heads and the die

will come up 1 or 2?

A. 1/2

B. 1/4

C. 1/6

D. 1/12

E. 1/3

marbles. If two marbles are selected at random, what is

the probability that at least one marble is blue?

A. 21/50

B. 3/13

C. 47/50

D. 14/15

E. 1/5

A fair, six-sided die is rolled.

What is the probability that

the number will be odd?

A. 1/4

B. 1/2

C. 1/3

D. 1/6

E. 1/5

A letter is randomly select

from the word studious.

What is the probability that

the letter be a U?

A. 1/8

B. 1/4

C. 1/3

D. 1/2

E. 3/8

beads. Sara randomly draws a bead from the bag, and

then Victor randomly draws a bead from the bag. What is

the probability that Sara will draw a red marble and Victor

will draw a blue marble?

A. 2/13

B. 1/5

C. 1/3

D. 1/10

E. 2/15

that the sum of the numbers will be 5?

A. 1/6

B. 1/4

C. 1/36

D. 1/18

E. 1/9

four coming up heads?

A. 1/4

B. 1/6

C. 1/8

D. 1/16

E. 1/32

is the probability that the event will NOT occur?

A. 5/9

B. 4/9

C. 2/9

D. 1/4

E. 1/2

marbles. If a marble is randomly drawn from the bag, the

probability of drawing a blue marble is .2, the probability

of drawing a red marble is .3, and the probability of

drawing a yellow marble is .1. What is the probability of

drawing a green marble?

A. .5

B. .6

C. .2

D. .4

E. .3

marbles. If a marble is randomly drawn from the bag and

a fair, six-sided die is tossed, what is the probability of

obtaining a red marble and a 6?

A. 1/15

B. 1/6

C. 1/3

D. 1/4

E. 1/18

obtaining a 3 or an odd number?

A. 1/6

B. 1/5

C. 1/4

D. 2/3

E. 1/2

the sailing club, the wine club, or both. If 200 students are

members of the wine club and 50 students are members

of both clubs, what is the probability that a student chosen

at random is a member of the sailing club?

A. 1/2

B. 5/8

C. 1/4

D. 3/8

E. 3/5

A bag contains six marbles: two red, two blue, and two

green. If two marbles are drawn at random, what is the

probability that they are the same color?

A. 1/3

B. 1/2

C. 1/8

D. 1/4

E. 1/5

majors and three accounting majors. If two students are

chosen at random, what is the probability that they are

both accounting students?

A. 3/10

B. 2/5

C. 1/5

D. 3/5

E. 4/5

Seven beads are in a bag: three blue, two red, and two

green. If three beads are randomly drawn from the bag,

what is the probability that they are not all blue?

A. 5/7

B. 23/24

C. 6/7

D. 34/35

E. 8/13

A bag has six red marbles and six blue marbles. If two

marbles are drawn randomly from the bag, what is the

probability that they will both be red?

A. 1/2

B. 11/12

C. 5/12

D. 5/22

E. 1/3

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